Category Archives: my work

Design as Text: A seminar for Archifest 2013

Design As Text

<< UPDATE, 23/9/13: CAPACITY EXPANDED! More tickets now on sale! >>

I’ll be presenting a seminar about design writing at this year’s ArchifestSchool of Urban Ideas‘. I’ve just checked the bookings and there’s one ticket left! Are you the lucky last attendee? Click on through to the event page! And check out the rest of the Archifest program while you’re there. I’m looking forward to meeting all the attendees on 5 October at the Archifest Pavilion.

Here’s the seminar synopsis:

Has a building review ever changed the way you think about a city? Has an interview with a product designer made you reconsider your relationship with everyday objects? A thoughtful and lively architecture and design culture needs equally thoughtful communication and criticism to support its development and enhance awareness. The most engaging writers, whose words resonate long after they are published, are skilful storytellers. Equally important is their ability to balance their responsibility to readers, publishers and the wider industry. This seminar will offer practical tips for those keen to write about architecture and design, as well as some perspectives on critical discourse.

The session will be presented by Narelle Yabuka, who has been writing and editing in the field of architecture and design in Singapore and Australia since 2002.

Contributing Editor for


From November 2012 to early February 2013 I had the honour of looking after the design and architecture news website (IDLA) while its regular editor, Janice Seow, was on leave. As the site’s Contributing Editor I filed eight stories per week and drafted a newsletter every Thursday. I take my hat off to Janice for keeping up the pace on a prolonged basis!


I’ve been contributing stories to IDLA for some time, and continue to do so now. It was great to get to know the Indesign team better, as well as make new connections with designers and artists, and with those working in the design-related commercial arena here in Singapore.

During my stint I relished the opportunity to report on some insightful individuals from Singapore and around Asia, as well as some from further afield who have been active in Asia. I’ve gathered a couple of quotes below from people whose words and work have stuck in my mind. Thanks to all who contributed!


“One of the major drivers for the future of landscape design in Singapore is the fact that we live in dense, high-rise housing. The kids that live up there are really disconnected from the ground. When you’re disconnected from the ground, you lose an appreciation of what is required to maintain a balance. I think it’s important for the profession to give them a reason to come back down to the ground so they can understand the issues that confront us. These issues extend beyond Singapore.” – Leonard Ng, Director, Atelier Dreiseitl Asia

Read the full story on Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park here.


“To paint involves a kind of mastery of spontaneity. When you look at my paintings, I hope that in your mind you see this movement across the space and reconnect with the energy. It’s a memory of this act, but I hope it is a vivid memory – not dead. There’s still movement in the space.” – Fabienne Verdier, artist

Read about French artist Fabienne Verdier, who trained in Chinese calligraphy, and the exhibition she held in Singapore here.



Upcycling: converting a disused object or waste material into something of greater value without degrading the material with which it’s made.


The third and final book I wrote for an\b editions has been on sale for a little while now. The concept sprang from the observation that while upcycling has gained popularity as an at-home craft, it holds immense potential for reduced material use when applied to the design and manufacture of consumer objects.

Additionally, as demonstrated by some of the early 1990s furniture and lighting designed by Tejo Remy, ‘upcycling’ can thoroughly challenge preconceptions about the aesthetics of form. Remy’s early work (distributed by Droog) focused on radical reinvention and memory, but today it could also be viewed trough the lens of sustainability.


Upcycle! presenting products, accessories, furniture, and lighting by designers in twenty-five countries, whose work reuses materials in the following general groups: cardboard and paper; cement, ceramic, and clay; cork; glass; metal; plastic; rubber; textile; and wood.

I made some delightful discoveries while compiling the contents – the ability of designers to make beautiful jewellery out of discarded bicycle inner tubes (Nikolay Sardamov, Bulgaria) or old tins and coasters (Melissa Cameron, Australia); to make tables from slices of old furniture (Oormerk, The Netherlands); or to make creature-like lights with the bases of old office chairs (Giovanni Delvecchio and Andrea Magnani for Resign, Italy).

One of the other joys of the research was discovering how witty designers could be in their efforts. Here are some examples:

Animal Skin Rugs by Agustina Woodgate (USA), made with the fur of pre-loved stuffed animal toys.


Stitch by Studio Pepe Heykoop (The Netherlands) – discarded chairs nurtured back to life with new hand-stitched covers and stuffing.


Relumine by mischer’traxler (Austria) – altering the character of old found lamps with a new and energy-efficient light source.


Multi-vase Lighting by Atelier Remy & Veenhuizen (The Netherlands) – compositions of glass objects that seem to have been thrown in the air and frozen in time.


Thanks to all the contributing designers and photographers, and to Jacinta Sonja Neoh (co-publisher) and Lara SH Loi for their art direction, design and layout.

New work on the shelves: red dot design concept yearbook 2011/2012

Have you ever thought it might be possible some day to ‘print’ a house using rapid prototyping? Ever conceived of farming crickets in the city to create a source of food? How about a car park ticket that tells you where the nearest empty bay is?

For a number of years I’ve undertaken copyediting for the red dot design concept yearbook. This year’s edition is now on sale, and as always it contains a huge array of concepts for products that have the potential to dramatically change the ways in which we live.

In the book’s 348 pages are concepts for products ranging from robots to showerheads to cooking implements to safety devices to communication tools, and many more besides. Notable in this edition is the number of concepts that address disaster and emergency situations – no doubt a direct response to recent events across the globe.

This year’s competition contained the largest number of entries yet: 3,536 of them from 54 countries. 295 awards were given to professional designers and students – also the largest number to date.

Some concepts that have stuck in my mind (accompanied by a few snaps from the book) are:

Microbial Home by Philips Design (the Netherlands) – winner of the ‘red dot: luminary’ award (the highest accolade in the competition).

Microbial Home is a domestic ecosystem that challenges conventional design solutions to energy, cleaning, food preservation, lighting, human waste, and healthy lifestyles.” It consists of an evaporative-cooling larder built into a dining table; a bio-digester island that converts vegetable scraps and solid bathroom waste into methane gas, which in turn is used for powering a range of home functions; a bio-light that uses bioluminescent bacteria fed with methane and compost; and an effluent-filtering squatting toilet that feeds a methane digester.

Potável by Saltuk Karayalcin (Turkey) – winner of a ‘red dot: best of the best’ award.

Potável is a motion-enabled water purification device for developing countries. It purifies unsafe water collected from a water source two or more miles away. Its purification system kills bacteria, viruses, and algae while it is pushed or pulled home.”

Daylight by Felix Wilden (Germany) – winner of a ‘red dot award’.

Daylight is a lighting system that consists of “reflecting lamellae (plates) mounted on the façade of a building and reflecting devices in the room.” The aim is to reflect daylight but not direct sunlight. The external aluminium reflecting plates stream daylight through windows to the interior reflecting devices, which can be adjusted individually.

The red dot design concept yearbook 2011/2012 is available for purchase at the red dot design museum shop (at red dot traffic, Maxwell Road, Singapore). Read more about the competition at the red dot design concept website.

Good reads at The Plain

Thanks to The Plain – one of my favourite cafes in Singapore – for adding Interior Pop! and Cardboard Book to its fine collection of reading material.

I undertook the editorial coordination and text for these books while working at an\b editions. Big thanks to Vincent and Laura for giving them a loving home at The Plain!

The U Cafe international magazine exhibition is almost over. Catch it at The Plain and other quality local cafes before it ends on 23 October! >> UPDATE: The U Cafe has been extended to 27 November.

Interior Pop! and Cardboard Book can be purchased at Basheer Graphic Books, Workshop, and other good bookstores. And by the way, the third title I worked on at an\b editions, Upcycle, will be released in the coming months. Look out for it!

Interior Pop! On sale now!

The second book I worked on at an\b editions is back from the printer and on sale. Interior Pop! presents interiors from around the world that juxtapose visual art, installation, graphics, pattern, and space.

As opposed to the brown tone of an\b editions’ first title, Cardboard Book, the pages of Interior Pop! practically explode with colour. The book grew from the observation that the makers of interior spaces are having to work ever harder to attract and maintain our attention. These days, we can customise our expression of identity at an instantaneous pace. Similarly, many interiors are being individualised through art and idiosyncrasy.

Interior Pop! surveys how brands and enterprises are using space as their canvas and making a big impact.

The 57 projects are each presented with a text description and multiple photographs (as well as drawings where appropriate), and are thematically grouped in five chapters: Playful, Illusionary, Illustrative, Abstract, and Fantastical.

Featured designers and artists include:
Formavision (USA)
Keiko + Manabu (Japan)
Asylum (Singapore)
Ab Rogers Design (UK)
Tjep. (The Netherlands)
Dizel&Sate (Sweden)
Gloss Creative (Australia)
Zaha Hadid Architects (UK)
Nomad Ink (Brazil)
Buj+Colón Arquitectos (Spain)
Glowacka Rennie Architects with Felice Varini (UK)
Electric Dreams (Sweden)
and many others!

The book has just hit the shelves at Basheer Graphic Books. You can also look for it at Workshop. I’m only going to show you the cover. To see its 320 pages, you’ll have to go and find it in the shops!

A co-edition (with a different cover) is being released by Gingko Press for the USA and Europe.

August in the office

So, it’s been a while between posts. I’ve been busy since returning from Sydney! I’ve been keeping the keyboard warm with some copywriting, copyediting, and proofreading jobs (thanks Debbie). I’ve also written a press release for fashion designer Resham Melwani. Check out her Facebook page here.

Resham will be releasing the 2011/12 collection for her label Nocturnal later in the year. She gave me a sneak peek of some excellent sample pieces at her studio. Here’s one of Resham’s snaps of a sample printed graphic with beading:

I really enjoyed seeing how the new work has evolved naturally from her previous collection – in thematic and sylistic terms. Best wishes Resham; I’m sure you’ll meet great success.

Also, look out for the upcoming ‘Robe Raiders’ event – a one-off sale of past-season designer clothing being jointly organised and hosted by Resham. A proportion of the sale proceeds will be donated to the Asian Women’s Welfare Association (Singapore).

My September is about to get very busy, so on with the next post …

Cardboard Book – reprinted and translated!

While working as the editor at an\b editions, I undertook the editorial coordination for Cardboard Book, and wrote the text within it. The an\b editions version (for Asia) and the Gingko Press co-edition (for USA and Europe) were released in late 2010.

I’m ecstatic that both an\b editions and Gingko have reprinted, and that Spanish publisher Links Books has translated and released the book in Spanish and French!

Cardboard Book has been favourably reviewed in Australian and Singaporean magazines (Artichoke, Houses, (inside) Interior Design Review, Cubes, and d+a), and has received great coverage on also reviewed it, saying “If you are interested in the radical use of material and the exploration of forms and stability of cardboard, this book is for you.” Cheers all!

My business logo

N, Y, and blue.

Hello, ni hao, selamat pagi, vanakkam!

Welcome! In the nine years I’ve worked in the publishing field, I have had the pleasure of learning and writing about:

a pedestrian bridge made with cardboard tubes
jewellery made with disused bicycle inner tubes and old tins
Australia’s basketry and fibre art sector
a house perched over an old tennis court
the history of central Perth’s river foreshore
residential kitchen and bathroom design
the sustainability of communities in Western Australia’s Pilbara region
sights to see on a walking tour of a Singaporean neighbourhood
brand identity for a men’s fashion label
an office designed with a ‘green building’ agenda
illustrators, furniture designers, and glass artists
nocturnal art photography by architects
the abstract interior of a subterranean bookshop

There have been many other unexpected subjects. How could I not love what I do?

This post marks the embarkation of my first business in Singapore. I intend for this site to do more than communicate my skills and work; I hope it will become a useful resource for those interested in architecture, design, and publishing in Singapore and Australia. Please revisit this space, as I will progressively expand the links section and report on upcoming and completed events.

Should I manage to forge new connections between Singapore and Australia, well – yeh nah look, that’d be shiok.

IMAGE NOTES: At one with nature. Getting around the garden city; Fort Canning Park, Singapore.